Regulatory Issues of the Internet Intermediaries

Funding: OTKA 
Duration: February 2, 2016 – January 31, 2020 (48 months)

This project’s ultimate goal is to formulate recommendations to policymakers on how to best approach internet intermediaries, primarily in a Hungarian context. To do this, we will further investigate aspects of horizontal (e.g. Google, Facebook) and vertical (e.g. Uber, Airbnb) intermediaries by specifically looking into human rights and monopoly issues, the use of algorithms, the attempts at European level to change copyright regulations and questions surrounding newer platforms that don’t fit any current regulatory framework.

The internet contains over a billion websites—that’s a lot of information. Without intermediaries like Google, Facebook, and Twitter, navigating this information would be nearly impossible. However, the data accessed from these “horizontal” intermediaries is not neutral: The use of information filtering based on algorithms, the creation of internal rules that are not in line with traditional constitutional laws of privacy and free speech, and new issues of monopoly (e.g., even if Facebook did have a competitor, would you use their platform if none of your friends did?) are changing the ways in which we need to approach the law.

“Vertical” internet intermediaries connect supply with demand—consider Uber, a technology company that connects drivers with people who need a ride. In Hungary, there are primarily two types of contracts. The first, between people or entities with an equal amount of power, essentially states that you are free to negotiate as you will. The second, based on consumer protection, involves very strong duties and restrictions imposed on companies with a large customer base. So which contract should lawmakers prescribe for Uber? Neither. In the current system, Uber is legally ambiguous, and is but one example of the need for legal reform.

New issues call for innovations in the way we approach legal studies; though focused on Hungary, our research has implications for the way internet intermediaries are approached worldwide.

Principal investigator (PI):

Zsolt Ződi  
Research Fellow  
Researcher profile page  

Contact the PI